AUSTIN (KXAN) — The United States Postal Service has upped security measures as mail theft continues to spike across the country.

Such measures include fortifying blue collection boxes, new locks, more secure verification for address changes and new authority to intercept packages with counterfeit postage.

Frank Albergo, the head of the Postal Police Officers Association, thinks a better fix the rise in both mail theft and attacks against mail carriers – is restoring patrolling power to postal police officers.

“We used intelligence-led policing targeting specific zip codes where mail theft was most prevalent, and it was working,” he said.

According to a 2020 Postal Inspection Service memo, postal police were ordered to stop patrolling and focus their attention solely on protecting post office property.

“You’d think when postal police officers are needed most, that’s when we’d be utilized,” said Albergo.

According to USPS, there were 38,500 mail theft incidents in FY22. In the first half of FY23, there have already been more than 25,000.

Mail theft is on the rise in Austin – so much so that Council Member Mackenzie Kelly has requested the City Manager’s Office to look into ways to deter the crime.

“By Federal law, the jurisdiction of PPOs is limited to USPS real property, and as such, the primary role of PPOs is to provide physical security for USPS property at their assigned work locations,” said the United States Postal Inspection Service (USPIS), which investigates USPS-related crime, in a statement.

Albergo said a bill to restore postal police patrolling power is currently with a Congressional committee.

Mail issues impacting Central Texans

“It looks like somebody with a screwdriver or something was trying to pry this open,” said Mike Miles of south Austin, pointing to his neighborhood’s communal mailbox.

He has dealt with various mail woes for years.

“We did have the entire box moved at one point,” he said. “There’s bolts on the bottom. And someone came by and took the bolts off and tried to take the entire box away.”

Currently, he said he hasn’t been able to get mail for at least one month because a broken key is stuck in the mailbox.

“It’s frustrating,” he said. “And when I go to the post office to get my mail, they don’t have it all… so is it in a black hole?”